“How to Spot a Spy” by People Rise Up Radio

People Rise Up Radio presents some information for activists on how to spot infiltrators and keep yourself safe.  Go to this page for the link to the original audio version.

 Especially if you’re an activist in Occupy, 99 Rise, or whatever may come next — you have got to read this.  Informeation not intended to be used to facilitate actual violent or otherwise nasty criminal activity.  — G.A.D.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Gary Oldman

Orange Juice Blog — with Benedict Cumberbatch! (Note: one lesson OJB has learned today is that even if you are publishing a story on Agents Provocateurs, you will find nothing useful for that purpose by doing an image search on “agents provocateurs.” And afterwards, you may have to burn your hard disk.

How To Spot a Spy

One way to neutralize potential activists is to get them into a group that does all the wrong things. Why?

1) So the message doesn’t get out

2) Time is wasted

3) to frustrate and discourage activists

4) And simply Nothing good or effective is accomplished

FBI and Police Informers and Infiltrators will infest any group, but they have also been known to establish phony activist organizations themselves.

Their primary purpose is to prevent an effective movement for social, environmental or economic justice from developing.

Agents come in small, medium or large and be of any ethnic background. They can be male or female.

The actual size of the group or movement being infiltrated is irrelevant. It’s the idea behind a movement and its potential for increasing in size and impact which attracts spies and saboteurs.

These are some tactics agents use to slow things down, foul things up, destroy a movement and keep tabs on activists.

One tactic is to destroy a group outright. Another tactic is to manipulate from within.

For example, an agent may tell an activist,
“You’re dividing the movement.”

Because, this invites guilty feelings. Guilt is an especially potent control mechanism when relations have been established through dedication to a cause.
When an agent criticizes an activist in such a manner, they are not only questioning their dedication to the cause, but making the activist feel responsible for any issues that threaten the cause.

An agent might tell an activist:  “You’re a leader!”

This is designed to enhance the activist’s self-esteem and creates a sense of shared perspective. Agents often benefit from empowering any feelings of righteousness an activist may develop from making altruistic contributions.

“Malignant pseudo-identification” is the process where an agent consciously imitates certain behaviors or mannerisms to nurture the activist’s identification with the agent, thus increasing the activist’s vulnerability to exploitation.

If an agent successfully creates this sense of kinship with an activist, the activist may be more likely to commit an illegal act in service to their new found “friend”.

Agents may also employ tearfulness, sadness, longing, fear, remorse, and guilt, to induce empathy, with the aim of manipulating the good natured activist.

It may be difficult to differentiate such constructed dramas from the real thing; however, it’s possible for activists to identify a fraud by employing two simple tactics.

First, remain cool and detached. Second observe. In the face of such a cool response, an agent will often quickly readjust. This will appear to be an abrupt about-face in context to the emotional drama the agent had just played out. Knowing the activists cannot be “emotionally hooked”, the agent will usually move on to other activists in short order.

“Follow the leader” is another tactic an agent may employ.

A good agent will want to meet as often as possible. He or she will talk a lot and say little. One can expect an onslaught of long, unresolved discussions.

Some agents take on a pushy, arrogant, or defensive manner in discussions, both online and in person. An agent employs these techniques in order to disrupt the agenda, or side-track the discussion. And agent will often interrupt a discussion repeatedly or feign ignorance – causing others to constantly repeat themselves or waste time explaining a very simple point others quickly understand. An agent may also make an unfounded accusation against a person.

Calling someone a racist, for example. This tactic is used to discredit a person in the eyes of other group members and in turn, derails the discussion, while invalidating whatever point was being made.


Some saboteurs pretend to be activists. She or he will ….

1) Write encyclopedic flyers or website pages, to deter potential activists from participating by making the issue too complex and boring to ignite taking action.

2) Print flyers in English only, disenfranchising communities whose first language is not English.

3) suggest demonstrations be held in places where no one cares about the issue or where it will not be seen by many people.

4) Confuse issues. Blurring the lines between issues and broadening the scope beyond reason.

5) Make the wrong demands. As in, making demands that are unrelated or far reaching, unprincipled according to group, demands ineffectual or serving no strategic purpose, making too many demands in order to obscure the focus on the issue and suggesting impossible or improbable demands which may make the effort appear unreasonable.

6) Compromise the goal. Derail a vital tactic, discredit movement, marginalize a goal by asserting it is hypocritical within context of the group’s broader efforts, break with the movement’s stated principles, or broker a compromise on behalf of the movement which falls well short of the groups stated goal and may limit the group’s ability to take further action.

7) Have endless discussions that waste everyone’s time, by turning the topic at hand into philosophical diatribes or adding lengthy personal stories.

The agent may engage in endless discussions and accompany them with drinking, pot smoking or make amusement to slow down the group’s work. Complaints of needing social time together and taking things too seriously, while complex issues or plans are being discussed.


1) Try to establish “leaders” to set them up for a fall in order to stop the movement.

2) Suggest doing foolish, illegal things that will get the activists in trouble and make the movement look bad in the eyes of the public.

3) Will taunt the authorities above and beyond the context of the scene on the ground and encouraging others to follow suit.

4) Attempt to make the activists compromise their values, which they may use against an activist at a later date, to discredit or invalidate anything of value they contribute.

5) Instigate violence.

Provocateurs will attempt to escalate a situation by agitating to the point of physical confrontation with other activists or bystanders. Some will stage an act of vandalism from within a crowd as a means to trigger violent responses from others or the police; which is particularly effective when among people who are ill-prepared to deal with such violence.

Causing violence to occur not only serves to smear the movement in the press, but can also deter future participation by current members and the public at large. Causing this type of chaos, fear and confusion can also aid agents in concealing their identity when fleeing the scene after their goal is accomplished.


1) Want everyone to sign up, sign in and sign everything. – record keeping, evidence and contact info for tracing/tracking?

2) Ask a lot of questions for data gathering on individuals. Police compile this information and keep it on hand at protests to identify activists and make targeted arrests.

3) Want to know which events activists are planning to attend, to further the shared perspective facade, continue surveillance efforts and expand databases.

4) Attempt to make the activist defensive in order to identify beliefs, goals and level of commitment. Playing the “contrarian” or questioning as if they don’t understand or playing stupid, but arguing nonetheless.m


Legitimate activists do not subject people to hours of persuasive dialog. Their actions, beliefs and goals speak for themselves.

Groups that DO recruit are missionaries, military, and fake political parties or movements set up by agents.


ALWAYS assume that you are under surveillance (on the ground and online) -and that there are infiltrators/agents amongst/within your group.

At this point, if you are NOT under surveillance and being infiltrated, then agents are not doing their job and you are not a very effective activist or group!

Scare Tactics

They use them.

Such tactics include slander, defamation, threats, getting close to disaffected or minimally committed fellow activists to persuade them to turn against the movement and give false testimony against their former comrades.

They will plant illegal substances on the activist and set up an arrest; they will plant false information and set up “exposure,” they will send incriminating communications in the name of an activist; and more; they will do whatever society will allow. – And NOT allow!

Putting activists in a sticky legal situation, can lead to cooperation with the police state and this tactic is especially effective when an activists has developed a sense of disconnection, typically heightened by a bond with an agent.

If an agent is “exposed,” he or she will be transferred or replaced. Communications between trusted activist groups across the country can be very useful for this reason.

COINTELPRO is still in operation today under a different code name; although, it’s no longer placed on paper where it can be discovered through the freedom of information act.

The FBI counterintelligence program’s stated purpose is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize individuals who the FBI categorizes as being opposed to “National Interests”.

As Noam Chomsky has correctly pointed out, “A slight breach in orthodoxy is sufficient to terrify authoritarian ideologues, who see in it the collapse of the system of thought control, that has been so effective in depoliticizing American Society.”

This in no way covers all the means agents use to sabotage the lives of sincere and dedicated activists or movements.

Many of these activities may appear innocuous enough and that is true, as networking is a vital part of activism. This isn’t a blueprint for paranoia, but rather tools vigilance.

train your brain, create a habit, make mental notes, remain vigilant, small incidents may add up to patterns of behavior over time.
Speak with trusted comrades to see if they have also noticed these types of behaviors.

Trust your gut, never do anything you’re not completely comfortable with. The best way to create security is to build community!

“How To Spot A Spy” by People Rise Up Radio
  is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

About Admin

"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.